In order to upgrade your computer BIOS, you need to know three basic things about your PC: the motherboard manufacturer, the motherboard model, and the BIOS manufacturer.
If you don’t know what is your motherboard manufacturer and model, please follow the procedures described in our How to Find Out Your Motherboard Manufacturer and Model tutorial.
Knowing your motherboard manufacturer and model, you need to go to the download section of the manufacturer website in order to download the BIOS file.
Two files are usually needed: the BIOS contents – usually a .bin or .rom file – and the program to record the BIOS contents inside the ROM chip, i.e., the programmer. (If your motherboard has a built-in programmer you won’t need it. More on this later.) Both are available on the BIOS download section of the motherboard manufacturer website.
You will also need to know the BIOS manufacturer, i.e., which company wrote the BIOS code. There are three major players: AMI (American Megatrends, Inc.), Phoenix, and Award. This information is important to know, as you need to use programming software compatible with your BIOS. An AMI programmer won’t work with Phoenix BIOS and vice-versa. As Phoenix has bought Award, programmers for Phoenix BIOS will work with Award BIOS.
One way to know the BIOS manufacturer is by taking a look at the ROM chip; usually the BIOS manufacturer puts a sticker on it. Take a look at Figure 2 and you will see that Phoenix was the company that wrote the BIOS code for that motherboard.
Another way is by paying attention when you turn on your PC, as the BIOS manufacturer name appears every time you turn it on. If you can’t see it, press the Pause key right after turning your PC on. In Figure 3, we give an example, where the BIOS was manufactured by Phoenix.
Entering setup by pressing Del during memory counting is another option, as the BIOS manufacturer name appears on the screen header or footer. In Figure 4, you see an example where the BIOS was manufactured by Award. (As mentioned before, Phoenix programming software will work just fine here.)
Now that you have already downloaded the BIOS file and the corresponding programmer from the motherboard manufacturer download page, it is time to upgrade your system BIOS. Don’t forget to uncompress (unzip) the files you’ve downloaded.
There are four ways to perform a BIOS upgrade:
- Replacing the ROM chip with a new chip containing the update software (the most complicated one for the regular user, so we won’t cover this option).
- Upgrading the BIOS using a program embedded on your motherboard (easiest and thus preferred way). Not all motherboards provide this option.
- Upgrading the BIOS using a Windows-based programmer.
- Upgrading the BIOS using a DOS-based programmer.
As mentioned above, the easiest way is to use the programmer embedded on the motherboard. Not all motherboards provide this feature. If yours has it, you won’t need to run any extra program, as the programmer is called by pressing a key during POST (i.e., right after you turn your PC on). In the next page we will show you how to detect if your motherboard has this feature and how to use it to upgrade your BIOS.